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Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

Head & Neck (Throat) Cancer

This year, nearly 65,000 people will develop head and neck cancer in the U.S. In the Gulf South region, one of the leading treatment centers for these kinds of cancers is Ochsner. With a combination of state-of-the-art imaging, minimally invasive techniques and a level of experience second to none, we make important decisions about the extent of the treatment required. We do all we can to preserve your appearance as well as your abilities to speak, swallow, taste and hear. We’re not here only to save your life – we’re relentless about preserving the quality of your life.

We’re committed to providing high-quality care to every patient, and that’s reflected in our reputation. U.S. News & World Report ranks our ear, nose and throat department, which includes head and neck cancer care, among the top 50 in the country. Our program also features:

  • A skilled, multidisciplinary team. Cancer care is most effective when a variety of experts are involved in diagnosis and treatment. Our team includes board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons, as well as medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurse practitioners, clinical nurses, nutritionists, psychologists, audiologists and many more.

  • Convenient access to care. We provide care in many communities throughout Louisiana, and virtual visits are available to patients across the Gulf region.

  • Coordinated treatment. Our head and neck cancer doctors work with specialists throughout our health system to ensure you receive the well-rounded care you need. A key example is our multidisciplinary skull base team, one of a small number in the country. Featuring neurosurgeons and head and neck surgeons in partnership with neuro-oncology and radiation oncology, this team treats tumors at the junction between the brain and nose.

  • Nurse navigation. Our dedicated nurse navigators will help you schedule appointments and connect you with community resources that can improve your quality of life.

  • Tumor board. During this weekly meeting, every specialist and provider involved in head and neck cancer care gathers to discuss patients’ cases and develop treatment plans.

Second opinions. Patients and referring providers alike trust our experts to provide second opinions, when appropriate.

Drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco are major risk factors for throat cancer, oral cavity cancer and other forms of head and neck cancer. Using both alcohol and tobacco further increases your risk.

Most cases of oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the middle part of the throat, are due to infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Oropharyngeal cancer is the most common type of cancer linked to HPV, and cases are increasing. HPV vaccination can help prevent cancer-causing infections.

Less common head and neck cancer risk factors include:

  • Epstein-Barr virus infection

  • Radiation exposure

  • Use of betel quid, a form of smokeless tobacco that is commonly used in Asia but is uncommon in the United States

  • Work-related exposure to certain substances, such as asbestos and wood dust

We offer head and neck cancer care to serve Louisiana, including in New Orleans, Shreveport and Baton Rouge, as well as virtual visits serving multiple states. Find a location near you.

Most cases of head and neck cancer begin in squamous cells. These cells are common in the mucous membranes, the moist linings of the head and neck. Cancer can develop in many parts of the head and neck, including the lips, tongue, gums, throat, voice box, sinuses, nasal cavity and salivary glands.

We treat all forms of head and neck cancer, and noncancerous head and neck conditions, including:

  • Benign conditions of the larynx (voice box)
  • Dysphagia — swallowing problems
  • Hoarseness
  • Hyperparathyroidism — too much parathyroid hormone in the blood
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer — cancer of the lower throat
  • Laryngeal cancer — cancer of the larynx
  • Nasal cavity cancer — cancer in the nose
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer — cancer of the upper throat
  • Neck masses
  • Oral cavity cancer — cancers of different areas of the mouth
  • Oropharyngeal cancer — cancers found in the oropharynx, where the throat and mouth connect
  • Paranasal sinus cancer — cancer that grows in the sinuses
  • Salivary gland tumors — growths found in the face’s salivary glands, which are responsible for making spit
  • Skin cancer, including melanoma
  • Skull base malignancies — tumors that grow at or just below the bottom of the skull
  • Thyroid cancer — cancer of a gland that is found at the bottom of the neck
  • Thyroid nodules — growths that can be liquid-filled or solid lumps found in the thyroid gland at the bottom of the neck

To treat head and neck cancer, you’ll likely undergo surgery to remove the tumor. You may also need radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy to help destroy the cancer. We use the most up-to-date, precise forms of treatment, including minimally invasive surgery and targeted radiation, to minimize damage to surrounding tissues and reduce the effects on your swallowing and speaking abilities. When treatment affects these functions, we can help restore them.

Our head and neck cancer doctors offer a variety of surgical treatment options, including:

  • Complex reconstructive surgery, including free tissue transfer (removing tissue from one part of the body and transplanting it to another)

  • Laser surgery of the larynx and upper airway

  • Open and endoscopic skull base surgery

  • Surgery to remove head and neck tumors

  • Transoral robotic surgery, a minimally invasive technique used for mouth or throat tumors

We offer access to new medications and approaches to treatment through clinical trials. In addition, we connect you with services to help you cope with treatment or rebuild function, including integrative oncology services, palliative medicine and supportive care, nutrition support, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychosocial oncology support. Support groups are also available.

If you experience side effects of treatment, such as speech or swallowing difficulties, facial swelling, dry mouth, sores in the mouth, loss of taste or jaw stiffness, tell your doctor or nurse. He or she can suggest ways to cope with the symptoms.

Patients with head and neck cancer often have to deal with unpleasant side effects. Please report any side effects to your doctor or nurse for a discussion on how best to deal with them. Depending on the treatment you receive, may experience the following:

  • Difficulties with speech, chewing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the face and neck may that usually goes away within a few weeks but may last a long time
  • Numbness in the neck where nerves have been cut.
  • Weakness and stiffness in the shoulder and neck if lymph nodes in the neck were removed,
  • Redness, irritation, and sores in the mouth
  • Dry mouth or thickened saliva
  • Changes in taste or loss of taste
  • Nausea
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Earaches
  • Swelling or drooping of the skin under the chin
  • Changes in the texture of the skin
  • Stiffness of the jaw

What is Eye Cancer?

Eye cancer is a very rare kind of cancer that starts somewhere in or on the eye (on the surface, on the iris, or within the eye beneath the retina) or in the skin of cells around the eye (the eyelid). Because it is so rare, it is best for a person diagnosed with eye cancer to seek treatment from someone who specializes in this field. A person can ask their doctor to refer them to an eye cancer specialist.

Types of Eye Cancer

There are different kinds of eye cancers. Below are some of the places near or on the eye where cancers can grow and the types that may be present on each one of these places:

  • Eyelid tumors. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of eyelid cancer. It can be removed with surgery. Other types of eyelid tumors include squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
  • Tumors that grow on the surface of the eye (conjunctival tumors). Conjunctival tumors include squamous carcinomas, malignant melanomas, and lymphomas.
  • Tumors that grow in the colored part of the eye or iris tumors. These tumors include melanomas.
  • Choroid tumors. These are tumors that grow in the layer of blood vessels that support the retina. They include melanoma, choroidal nevus, and choroidal osteoma.
  • Retinoblastoma. This is a cancer of the eye that affects children. It is extremely rare in adults.

Cancers of the Eyelid

Cancer of the eyelid is actually a type of skin cancer, not an eye cancer. The treatment most commonly used for cancer of the eyelid is surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancer. The type of surgery used depends on the size of the tumor. If the tumor requires removal of most of the eyelid, the eyelid will be remade (reconstructed) using plastic surgery. In some cases, radiation may be needed after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind. Radiation will usually affect eyesight.

Ochsner’s Endocrinology Division provides care to essentially all of the clinic’s thyroid cancer patients. These cases usually develop through a thyroid nodule that is discovered by the patient, provider or even a radiologic test undertaken for a completely different reason.

More Information/Appointments

Call 504-842-3910 for more information or to make an appointment.

The patient is referred to Ochsner’s Endocrinology Division for a risk assessment and an FNA procedure, also known as a Fine Needle Aspiration procedure. A decision can then be made by the patient regarding surgery options or other follow-ups.

A second opinion from one of the top head and neck surgeons in the region will give you reassurance that your diagnosis is correct and that you’re getting the right care. Call 504-842-4080 to learn more.

To refer a patient to the Head and Neck Surgical Oncology team, contact our Nurse Navigator, Melissa Simon at or call 504-842-7689


Head and neck cancer can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the type of cancer. Symptoms can include sores in the mouth, jaw swelling, swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, persistent throat pain, difficulty chewing or swallowing, pain when swallowing, blocked sinuses that won’t clear, and facial numbness.

Our doctors treat more than 200 cases of head and neck cancer annually.

Every case is different. Some patients experience chewing and swallowing difficulties as a result of treatment. However, we use treatments designed to minimize the effects on these functions. We also offer a variety of services to help patients improve their chewing and swallowing abilities.

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Map of Ochsner-affiliated facilities that provide services related to Head & Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancer Locations

Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport - Cancer Treatment Center
301 Bert Kouns Industrial Loop
Shreveport, LA 71106
  • Monday – Friday: 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Ochsner University Hospital & Clinics
2390 West Congress St.
Lafayette, LA 70506
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner Lafayette General Surgical Hospital
1000 West Pinhook Road
Lafayette, LA 70503
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner Acadia General Hospital
1305 Crowley Rayne Highway
Crowley, LA 70526
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport - Feist-Weiller Cancer Center
1501 Kings Highway
Shreveport, LA 71103
  • Monday – Friday: 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
St. Tammany Cancer Center - A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center
900 Ochsner Blvd.
Covington, LA 70433
  • Mon – Fri: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center
1214 Coolidge St.
Lafayette, LA 70503
  • Open 24/7
Slidell Memorial Hospital
1001 Gause Blvd.
Slidell, LA 70458
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner Cancer Center – Baton Rouge
17050 Medical Center Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
Ochsner Health Center - Covington
1000 Ochsner Blvd.
Covington, LA 70433
  • Mon–Fri: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Ochsner Medical Center - Baton Rouge
17000 Medical Center Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner Baptist - A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center
2700 Napoleon Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70115
  • Open 24/7